Dem Senator Opposed Clinton Impeachment Witnesses, Now Calls for Witnesses Against Trump

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January 16, 2020

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) opposed the House's efforts to push the Senate to listen to witnesses during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, but now he supports having such witnesses during its trial of President Donald Trump.

The Vermont senator said during a Thursday interview on VPR's All Things Considered that the Senate opting not to hear from witnesses would leave a "dark mark" on the chamber.

"I think it would be a mark against the Constitution, a mark against the Congress, and actually would not in any way help the president. So if we want to start the proceedings and then vote on witnesses, that's a possibility," Leahy said. "But why do something that is just going to be a dark mark, not on the president, but on the United States Senate."

Leahy was highly critical of House Republicans' push for impeachment witnesses during the impeachment trial of Clinton in 1999, saying that "the [impeachment] Managers only became interested in hearing from witnesses once they faced trouble obtaining a conviction in the Senate."

"Having chosen to proceed in the House without witnesses, the Managers were in no position to demand that the Senate hear witnesses. A Senate impeachment trial is not a make-up exam for an incomplete inquiry by the House," Leahy wrote during the Clinton impeachment.

Leahy also criticized the House Judiciary Committee for not allowing witnesses to appear before their committee during Clinton's impeachment hearings.

"I find it stunningly ironic that the House Judiciary Committee saw no similar disrespect to their fellow House members when they presented their articles of impeachment before the full House without the benefit of a single witness appearing before their panel," Leahy wrote.

The House officially transferred its articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Thursday. The Senate is expected to begin the trial on Tuesday.